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New Book Explores 130 Years of Coffee Culture in Japan

coffee life in japan book merry whiteIn the shadow of teahouses, coffee in Japan is sometimes overlooked by outside observers.

Fact is, in a given year, Japan tends to be one of the world’s largest coffee buyers, typically on par with France and Italy, behind Germany and the United States. This is not new. Coffee culture in Japan dates back more than 100 years. And though much has been made about how Japan and the rest of Asia are increasing their influence in the global coffee marketplace, less attention has been paid to cultural differences in coffee consumption.

Enter Coffee Life in Japan, a (relatively) new book published in May by the University of California Press and written by Boston University anthropology professor, former caterer and Japanese cooking expert Merry White.

Here’s a description of the book from the publisher:

This fascinating book–part ethnography, part memoir–traces Japan’s vibrant café society over one hundred and thirty years. Merry White traces Japan’s coffee craze from the turn of the twentieth century, when Japan helped to launch the Brazilian coffee industry, to the present day, as uniquely Japanese ways with coffee surface in Europe and America. White’s book takes up themes as diverse as gender, privacy, perfectionism, and urbanism. She shows how coffee and coffee spaces have been central to the formation of Japanese notions about the uses of public space, social change, modernity, and pleasure. White describes how the café in Japan, from its start in 1888, has been a place to encounter new ideas and experiments in thought, behavior, sexuality , dress, and taste. It is where a person can be socially, artistically, or philosophically engaged or politically vocal. It is also, importantly, an urban oasis, where one can be private in public.

 

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